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Slugfest Brews Over Phone Access Fees

With a $22-a-line proposal from SBC Communications as the latest offer in the great telephone access fee war, it's clear that the four regional telephone monopolies are taking different approaches to resolving their timeworn dispute with independent competitors.

The first reaction to the SBC proposal Tuesday came from AT&T, which said it would reject the offer.

Bolstered by a recent Court of Appeals decision throwing out the old rules regulating access fees, the former regional Bell operating companies -- BellSouth, Qwest, SBC and Verizon -- have been freed from the mandated fees that previously had been set by individual states.

Elsewhere Qwest agreed to mediate the issue with MCI and AT&T. Cheryl Parrino, former chairwoman of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, will mediate.

BellSouth is proposing to hold its fees stable until the end of the year and then increase them incrementally until 2007 at which point they would be capped at $7 a month over the existing charges. So far Verizon is approaching the issue on an individual basis one competitor at a time.

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